February 19, 2014 | Vol.54 N.8

L.S. City Council votes to approve ordinance allowing marijuana processing in city limits

Last week, Lake Stevens City Council voted unanimously to approve Ordinance 908, which allows the processing and producing of marijuana within Lake Stevens' city limits. This ordinance came from Initiative 502 in which voters throughout the state approved the legalization of producing, processing and selling marijuana to those 21 and older.

The state of Washington has allowed one retail location in Lake Stevens, which will be in the Frontier Village area. The state assigned that number according to the city's size.

The council held its second and final public hearing for the ordinance on Monday, February 10. Only three people spoke publicly to the council. Two of those were proponents of the ordinance; one a producer/processor and one a building owner. The other citizen had concerns about the smell of marijuana and how it would affect the area where the cannabis would be grown and processed.

No one stood up against the ordinance at this meeting.

"Personally, I thought I-502 was a poorly written initiative on so many levels and I voted against it.  What surprised me was how many more people voted for it than against it not just in our state but more importantly here in Lake Stevens," councilmember Sam Low said. "Through the entire process no one called or emailed me asking to outlaw these businesses in our city.  I personally reached out to people and heard a few negatives, but mostly positives.  Only one person showed up at the two council meetings (and I invited many) to speak out publicly against this type of business. Lake Stevens soundly voted for this and we as a council did our best to accommodate both sides of this hot button issue and be fair."

Other council members agreed and wanted to ensure that they complied with voters' wishes.

"Initiative 502 passed with strong support from Lake Stevens' voters. Our job as a City Council is to provide the local regulatory framework in response to the provisions set out by the State," councilmember Suzanne Quigley said. "The City Council unanimously adopted the specific procedures and local regulations after careful study, analyses, and public input."

The ordinance will take affect on February 22, 2014 and includes a thousand foot buffer from all schools and parks. The businesses also have to reside within the light industrial or general industrial zoning areas of the city. Currently, this limits them to the areas of Hartford Road and Machias Rd. (See purple areas on map)

Producers are limited to 10,000 square feet of production area and the cap on production is 100,000 square feet within city limits. The state has a cap of two million square feet of production and processing statewide.

"Businesses can grow on one side of the business and process on the other. However, they cannot sell to the public," Lake Stevens city's Planning and Community Development director Russ Wright explained. "The Liquor Control Board approves state licensing and inspects facilities for security cameras, equipment, background checks, most administrative issues they will take care of."

As for the smell produced by marijuana plants, the business will have to prove to the city that they can ensure that the odor does not leave the building.

"They have to control odor and the city will conduct a review of that during the application process. They will have to show us what type of equipment they are using to control odor on site. This is the same as we require for all businesses," Wright said.

A big concern for many of the councilmembers was that the industrial area of Lake Stevens not be taken over by marijuana processors and producers.

"I am satisfied that we will not have our industrial area overrun with these types of businesses," Low said.  "I am happy that we will not have our one allotted retail location be in the downtown area, near the lake, where many of our young people hang out."

The city has already received several applications for these types businesses.

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